CAN YOU SHOW ME THE WAY TO
It was during the First World
War. Shells were bursting all around. Presently there was a black cloud as
pieces of shrapnel came whizzing past.
Poor Burt fell like a log. Tiny Jim, (6ft.3ins - 190.5cms) jumped down beside him and then
returned to his place in the trench.
Suddenly there was a startled
cry, “Can you tell me the way to heaven?” Tiny Jim jumped down again. “The way to heaven? I’m sorry chum, I don’t
know the way, but I’ll ask other fellows.”
He walked along to the next
man and asked him, but he did not know. So he went on to the man beyond him,
but he didn’t know either. He walked around the trench and inquired of a third
man. Then he went from one to another
until he had asked seven men the same question, but none of them knew the way to
Leaving that part of the
trench, he went onto the next. His
question was always the same, “Bert is dying.
He wants to know the way to heaven. Can you tell him the way?”
The machine-gunner was sitting
alone with his gun, his eyes glued on the German lines. The gunner felt a thump
on his back and then heard a voice shouting, “Gunner, there is a chap in our
company who has been hit. He’s dying and
he wants to know the way to heaven. Can you tell him the way?”
The machine-gunner turned
around and a smile lit up his face as he replied. “Yes.” He said, “I know the
way, but I cannot get along the trench. I dare not leave my gun. But wait.” Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he pulled
out a little New Testament. Quickly turning over the pages, he said, ,”Look
there, chum, this is the way to heaven, that verse there, John 3:16. I’ll turn
the leaves back, you put your thumb on that verse and tell him that is the way
Quickly, Tiny Jim rushed
back. He jumped down beside Bert, who
lay so still for a moment he thought he had gone. He touched his shoulder. “I’ve got it Bert,” he exclaimed. “Here is the way to heaven, John 3:16. ‘For God so loved
the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Poor Bert’s eyes were wide
open now. He was drinking in every
word. What a scene it was – Tiny Jim
kneeling at the bottom of the trench, his great hand holding the little testament,
the tears running down his cheeks, reading again and again those life-giving
words in the ears of Bert.
A look of peace came over
the dying man as he kept gasping out “whosoever”. After a bit, he lay quiet and still again.
Tiny Jim called out, “Look chaps!” And there was Bert. With one last great effort he had raised
himself up. He seemed to be gazing at the
little piece of blue sky just visible from the trench. His hands were stretched toward it. His face lit up with angelic glory and, with
one last gasp he called “whosoever”, and fell back dead.
Yes. Bert had found the way
to heaven. What a change! One moment in
a trench on the battlefield the next with Christ. What about you? Have you too, found the
way? If not, read the verse again. It is the greatest verse in the Bible.
“For God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
God does not love our sin,
but He loves us no matter what we have done,
no matter how great our sin and He will always love us.
It was because of us God so
loved the world that He gave His only Son..........God could have rescued His
Son, even from the cross, and yet He let Him suffer and never raised a hand to
Would you have done that?
Could you have let your son suffer such excruciating agony, knowing full well that
you had the power to rescue Him? Impossible!
But God did. God allowed His Son
to die when He could have rescued Him because He loved us so much.
Now it’s up to us to ask
Him to forgive us of all our sin. Acknowledge He died for you and hand your
life over to Him.
The darkened house
was still. With a tinnie on the table and feet up on the recliner, my mind
began to recall Mates, ‘over there,’ in Afghanistan. I missed them. Missed the
camaraderie, the mateship, the teasing and to be honest the adrenalin rush of
the sudden, often violent contacts with the Taliban forces.
The army had transformed
a motley crew of men into a tight-knit group at the Recruit Training Battalion.
Our service numbers had replaced our individuality and we’d gained names such
as Blue, Tas, Lofty, Shorty and Cobber. I especially missed Cobber.
He was of solid
build, hair the colour of ripened wheat and teeth that would bring honour to
any toothpaste commercial. Not one for too much verbal interaction, he would
rather watch and listen. He rarely displayed signs of frustration or anger and
had an instant alertness when something grabbed his attention; an asset in any
He was the
youngest of our group and when he goofed off now and again, we put it down to
his immaturity and warned him that he would have to shape up or ship out.
Perhaps it was because I was the eldest in our section that he gravitated
towards me, and in time, I quite liked the idea of him as a friend. The other
men noticed our budding friendship and made snide comments, but they were happy
to leave me to the “Buddy System”.
arrived: “Posted to Afghanistan.” A land of contradictions; heat and snow,
betrayal and support, desert and green plains, richness and down-right poverty.
A land that had claimed and maimed Aussie lives and psychologically disturbed
With training and
goodbyes completed, our C130 eventually touched down on a well used, barren
airstrip at Taren Kowt, Afghanistan.
Cobber as usual found himself walking close to me; his head was on a
swivel, rubber necking. To be honest, I
guess we all felt a little out of our comfort zone.
After settling and
checking our accommodation and base lay-out, we proceeded to the sandbagged
briefing room. The drones of low flying aircraft and helicopter rotors could be
heard as we listened to the latest heads-up.
Heat, sand and sweat
were permanent fixtures for our duration in this country.
We were soon off
on our first patrol. Back pack, flak jacket, helmet, weapon, water, radio,
medical aids and other paraphernalia that the modern soldier carries were
hoisted on our backs and we were ready to roll. I tried to gauge the emotions
of the men around me and as my eyes rested on Cobber, I wondered how he would
go. He caught my eye and stared straight back, perhaps he was wondering
the same about me!
was some distant low hills. An almost invisible goat track meandered towards
them and I watched Cobber intently. He was focused and alert. I felt relief,
perhaps I need not worry about him.
walking slightly ahead of us came to an abrupt halt, I nudged him and asked if
all was OK. He indicated a small group of caves clustered into the side of a
gully wall. I knew without him telling me they had to be searched.
“OK, Mate, I’m
The others spread
out, alert and observing while we moved cautiously forward to our objective.
Booby traps and IEDs* were foremost in my mind. Could this be a trap?
On entering, we
waited till our eyes adjusted to the dimness, then took stock of our
surroundings. Gnarled and twisted tree roots had penetrated the cave’s roof and
hung down like ghostly fingers, small boulders and rocky ledges scattered the
interior. Fully alert with sweat forming on my brow, I became aware of my escalating
heart-beat pounding in my ears. Cobber too looked to be on an adrenalin
I signaled to
Cobber that his back was covered. Slowly he continued forward to stop a
short time later and indicated a hessian bag propped and partially hidden
against the rocky wall. I gave him the thumbs up.
myself to a kneeling position I heard a crack. Was that my knees or the
contents of this bag preparing to detonate? Gently lifting one corner of
the hessian I shone my torch into its depth.
first mission and wed hit pay dirt! The sack was filled with ammunition
and a carefully wrapped IED*.
The Taliban would
not be happy chappies!
discovery, Cobber gained a new level of respect by the same men who had their
doubts during training and given him curry throughout, but now, even with his
gung-ho attitude, he proved to be a valued member of our section. He was
accepted. All the praise brought a new maturity in him and the talk of his
apparent sixth sense to be so lucky in the first strike filled the mess for
On another occasion
when searching house by house an abandoned village, we sought for anything that
was a destructive force in the hands of the Taliban. Cobber and I, working
together, discovered a former animal shelter in a court yard. Old straw and
food bins held nothing but cobwebs and the ever present dust. Cobber
up?”I asked. He thought the floor of the animal shelter looked a bit
By this time, I was
beginning to trust his judgment more than my own! Warily, we began to shuffle
through the old straw, not sure what we were looking for.
Well what do you
know? A false floor! We had uncovered explosives, mines and munitions which
included mortar rounds.
“Cobber Mate,” I’d
said, “Whatever the army pays you, it is not enough!”
On patrol, Cobber
liked walking point. Not many argued for this position. We’d left the base
before the sun of the hot desert reached its zenith to walk past a weaving
sun-baked stone wall, on the other side of which, some nationals lived. It was
too quiet, my mouth went dry and my gut instinct warned of danger.
When Cobber hit
the ground, we followed suit.
He saved our
heavy and steady punctured the nearby ground. We covered Cobber with our
returned fire as he crawled on his belly back to us. The hot contact was fast,
furious but short lived.
We’d survived another day.
Under the stars of
the cold desert night, I talked to Cobber. He heard of my hopes and dreams in
life and I’d ask about his. He’d been born in New South Wales and had
numerous siblings but had lost track of them. He’d been in foster homes, learnt many things
in life, and ended up at the School of Military Engineers. He wasn’t sure what
he would do when his tour was finished. Probably volunteer again!
Any soldier knows
that in a war zone, you have to guard each other’s backs and because of this,
strong bonds are formed; bonds that can last a lifetime. Soldiers share water,
ammunition, rations and letters from home, confidences are given and
received. Cobber, I knew would watch my back, and I would watch his. No
questions asked. We were there for each other.
We were an escort
party to the Bush Masters that were driving to a new base further out from our
compound. Our interpreter, Cobber and I walked forward in response to a radio
message that a young girl was sitting in the middle of the road while all the
heavy military traffic passed around her. Silently, this scrap of a waif
sat cross legged, her body covered by a dirty tunic. Shorty, our
interpreter, explained the danger she was in, but she continued to sit, not
moving. He finally asked why she was sitting on the road. Quietly she told him
she had seen Taliban men burying something on the road and knew it was a bomb.
She decided to sit beside it so that the good soldiers would not be hurt.
Ever seen tough
soldiers cough to hold back emotions?
Checking out roads
and special places became second nature. Always alert, we knew our
findings could save lives. Cobber considered a roadside discarded tyre
was not all that it seemed. On investigation we discovered an IED* device
planted within it.
The day dawned for
our return to Australia. Our time in-country was up but I was devastated to
learn Cobber would be staying on. I was gutted. He was my best friend, my
mate, a soul brother. What would I do without him? I would be only half the
bloke I was, he had become my right hand, my eyes and my ears and now the
system was separating us.
You see, Cobber
was an EDD, an Explosives Detection Dog and I was his handler.
As I took the
final long swig from my tinnie I muttered, ‘Where ever you are Cobber, keep